With a redesign and a over a third of its pages devoted to fashion coverage, Glamour magazine is celebrating 75 years by doing what legacy brands do these days: harkening back to the old, emphasizing the new and making sure they make money while they do both.
Women's Wear Daily reported last week that Editor in Chief Cindi Leive, who's helmed the magazine since 2001, really wanted the March 2014 anniversary issue to make a splash. It's being billed as her attempt to show off what she referred to as "the first true reflection of all the recent changes in the masthead" – most notably, the poaching of Paul Ritter as creative director from Elle. Ritter's hire and other staffing shifts were part of Leive's move to up the fashion coverage in the magazine. "We will be doing more designer coverage. Our readers are interested. Women are much more knowledgeable about the fashion industry," Leive told WWD, though she noted the decision to add fashion coverage came from her and was not due to Anna Wintour's new consultant position at Condé Nast.
While there is in fact a notable increase of fashion coverage in the March issue, the emphasis of today's Glamour is still great and strong women are, ala their Women of the Year Awards. Leive expresses this right from the start, in her letter from the editor, which includes photos of birthday cards to Glamour from the Obamas, among many others:
...as a 1941 Glamour put it, "You are all the American women of today.... Glamour's function [is] to help you solve in every way the complex business of living.
I love that mission: to help you solve the complex business of living.
Leive goes on to cite the magazine's new features – and boy, there are plenty of them. There are new columns from Rashida Jones and Leive's own "Step into my office" about women in the workforce (this month: Sheryl Sandberg). Non-recurring articles include Jimmy Fallon gushing about his newborn daughter, Girls breakout star Allison Williams doing her thang, cover girl Taylor Swift talking about dating/the importance of female friends and a piece on how difficult it is for women of color to find the right makeup.
The response to Jones' essay in the magazine on whore pop stars was so loud Glamour chose to devote most of their letters from readers section to emails/tweets about it. More telling: the issue includes an entire conversation between six designated "experts" on the topic (a lineup that includes Amanda Palmer and Santigold) called "Is There Such a Thing as 'Too Sexy'?" Glamour also published the results of a reader poll where half of 1,000 people said they were "tired of all the toplessness and twerking."
Image via Epherma Forever/Glamour
The issue's hallmark are the pages devoted to Glamour's "75 Most Important Women of the Past 75 Years," where everyone from Carol Burnett to Margaret Sanger gets a blurb. This feature is the second point in the magazine where Glamour touts the fact that it was the first major women's magazine to put a black woman on its cover – Katiti Kironde in 1968.
This trip down memory lane doesn't always work; while the timeline notes the following important historical moment in Glamour's history...
June 1963: Gloria Steinem begins writing for Glamour. (One of her first pieces, in this issue, is about picking up men on the beach!) She goes on to pen more than 35 stories in the magazine.
...it neglects to mention that those stories were exactly the kind of things Steinem hated writing about. Being forced to write about pantyhose because she was a woman wasn't something she found particularly funny at the time.
The fashion coverage does come across as more Vogue or Elle than Glamour – except that everything has just a little extra. There's a huge spread on Rag & Bone and a beauty feature on Lupita N'yongo. Allison William's shoot includes extra tidbits of her talking about what an empowering woman Tina Fey is (Williams was her "assistant's assistant" on Baby Mama). Crystal Renn's shoot has a bonus interview where she discusses her long-held belief that models shouldn't be put into straight-size and plus-sized categories. The fashion might take up a huge part of the magazine, but it's not just extra photo shoots or pages of recommended products.
While Glamour might be trying to catch the eyes of new readers, what they've put out is not too different from what else is out there. The new Glamour bears a resemblance to February's Marie Claire with Drew Barrymoore looked like. It too has been redesigned and outfitted with a pared down, Elle-esque cover. Inside, there's tons of fashion coverage, most of it designer and very expensive. "Serious" articles include "Meet the new (kick-ass, in control) single girl," a piece on Pussy Riot and one on HPV.
It's great that all this fashion coverage is thorough. But there's more to it than that – and that more is that it's making the magazine money. Glamour's new app/website is featured prominently in the first few pages as a way to buy exactly what you're looking at in the magazine – whether editorially chosen or an ad – without going to the stores.
"Shop Glamour is a great fit for our advertising partners who look to Glamour to deliver ROI," Glamour vice president and publisher Connie Anne Phillips told Racked Tuesday. "With this program, they have the benefit of showcasing their product in the context of a curated retail environment with unprecedented reach." Glamour and AHAlife, their partner on the platform and "a curated marketplace for creative, inspiring objects," wouldn't reveal to Racked exactly how this will work monetarily. They did say that AHAlife would take some of the money from sales, which implies that Glamour will be making money off of it too.
The kind of magazine Glamour wants to be (read: profitable) is best represented through the layout of the page Leive's letter from the editor is on. After citing the magazine's new features, Leive notes that they "are all aimed at giving you style and substance" – a comment just happens to sit right next to the large inset box for Shop Glamour.
Image via Glamour